First, a note or two on why I never watched Torchwood before, so you know where I'm coming from:
1. I watched the first ever episode, and was appalled by the fact that the writers seemed to think that "grown-up" means sex everywhere.
2. As a side note to #1, I could not stand Owen. I spent the episode wishing he would die and go away.
3. can be boiled down to a rather hysterical: "OMG THIS IS NOT MY CAPTAIN JACK! WHAT THE F*** DID YOU DO WITH MY JACK???"
I do recall liking Gwen a lot, tough but not impervious; and Rhys had me from his very first appearance. But none of that made me want to watch the show, so I rather firmly did not, even after series 2 got much better comments from my flist.
Holy frigging crap.
There, now. That is grown-up scifi. Thank you for figuring it out.
Still love Gwen and Rhys. Together? Some kind of superpower couple cuteness. *dies* Eve Myles is pretty, but she's gorgeous when making happy faces at the husband character. \o/ So many points for married couple who survive the story.
Even more points for not making Gwen's pregnancy a plot point (though the rant about it being Torchwood's fault, that the Pill doesn't stand a chance against all the crap she's exposed to on a regular basis, was hilarious); for making it part of what's going on with her in this story, part of her relationships and her self, but not more than that.
Jack still isn't quite my Jack. But he seemed more like it here than he did when I tried to watch the show before. (Though I recall thinking, when he had so much glee over Ianto getting the new coat for him, that this attachment to that outfit is so out of proportion as to be pathological; and I had a momentary desire to write fic about that.)
Hum. I liked how the Jack/Ianto relationship was handled. Actual consequences to loving someone, yes, thank you for touching on the real world there. Though I admit that the feminist in me twitched at the implied power imbalance in the relationship.
But I like Ianto, even on such short acquaintance, and was willing to go with it.
In fact... Laugh if you will, but I cried when Ianto died. I'm tired, I know that had something to do with it. And I didn't cry during the actual death scene (though Jack's "Stay with me, Ianto!" in his eyes-front-soldier voice just about killed me), but afterwards, when Jack woke up with Gwen beside him, and Ianto's body.
Holy crap, show. *whimpers*
The secondary characters were so, so well developed. I'm assuming that Jack's daughter and grandson were already mentioned in the show, but I didn't need that background to grasp what was happening and feel the full weight of family involvement. (Oh, my word, I adored Ianto's sister and her family. SO MUCH LOVE.) And even the politicians, making tough decisions with a mix of desperation and horrific practicality, were sympathetic. I could see their positions even if I wanted to strangle them. (And I was so proud of Lois for standing up to them when she needed to.)
My favorite secondary character, though? Has to be Frobisher. I cried as much over what he finally had to do, over that closed door and four shots, as over Ianto (which was more over Gwen and Jack anyway). I...wow. Just wow, this man; so far from a hero but so dedicated and hardworking and brave in his own way, seeking ways through the ever-thickening morass.
Part of me can't quite believe what Jack did to stop the 456.
The rest of me thinks that it was precisely in character. That Jack had to do that (or so he thought, and I certainly see no way out from here); that he would even, perhaps, have considered it better to sacrifice his own blood than that of someone else's child--which is completely shit, but I can see why he might think or feel so.
Poor Gwen. She keeps her family, but loses everything else in the saving.
Grown-up scifi. Yes. That's what this is. And why I recommend it.
There's a moment--I think it's between Gwen and Rupesh. They're talking about the past few years, about aliens contacting Earth, and Rupesh tells about the growing number of suicides, particularly about a Christian woman who lost her faith. That sort of story doesn't comes up much in this universe, so I am always intrigued when it does, especially when it has to do with the consequences of the stories we see every week; and it always makes me want to write fic.
The other moment that struck me was when Gwen is recording her "how the world ended" message, and says that she knows now why the Doctor doesn't always come: surely, in times like this, he must look at humanity and be ashamed of them. Normally I prefer references that don't over-emphasize the metaphor of the Doctor as God; but this worked like gangbusters for me, because I've heard this said before in the context of why God doens't always intervene, and my reaction to Gwen saying this about the Doctor ("he would never, not for the reason you're saying, that would not ever keep him away") is the same as my reaction to this speculation in a theological context. I found it interesting and I'm glad it was there.
So there you have it. Recommendation: watch.